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Can Greater Manchester take the right steps to becoming an exemplar healthy place?

It has been encouraging to see the journey of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (the Framework) from its inception evidence base to the current consultation document.

In its submission to the Vision and Draft Strategic Options consultation in January 2016, the Town and Country Planning Association notes “the GMSF has the perfect opportunity to set out strategic public health and healthcare priorities and needs”.

This blog will provide a commentary as to whether the Framework has harnessed this opportunity in the draft document and set out recommendations.

It is right to distinguish the level of policy details that we would normally seek in Local Plans from strategic planning documents such as the Framework. Another example of a similar strategic policy document is the Spatial Development Strategy for London, the London Plan, which has a strong focus on reducing health inequalities.

While health and social care budgets have been devolved to the Combined Authority, each of the ten councils are still responsible for developing separate Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies, as well as the Local Plans.

Therefore the key question is, what is the best way to strategically integrate health and wellbeing considerations into the Framework while providing the right level of guidance and levers to Local Planning Authorities and Directors of Public Health?

An answer, the TCPA believes, lies with taking a structured approach to consider health and wellbeing in an integrated manner.

This can be done by adopting a planning for health checklist to ensure the Framework takes into account policy requirements set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and the accompanying Planning Practice Guidance.

Alternatively, as part of its Reuniting Health with Planning initiative, the TCPA has developed a framework of six healthy planning elements, which planning and public health practitioners and their partners can use as a starting point when looking at plans and development schemes. The six elements are:

1. movement and access,
2. open space, play and recreation,
3. healthy food environment,
4. neighbourhood spaces and social infrastructure,
5. buildings, and
6. local economy


A rapid assessment below on the Framework yielded interesting results and a number of proposed draft policies and their reasoned justification look promising from the perspective of planning for health.


The Framework has sought to mainstream health and wellbeing considerations throughout its suite of spatial planning policies to address issues across the whole spectrum of social, environmental and economic aspects.

It has embedded policies to promote active travel and provision of multi-functional green infrastructure across various policy areas, as well as recognising the importance of buildings and homes as a key determinant of people’s health.

In addition it has recognised the importance of employment opportunities as the driver to improving people’s wellbeing and life opportunities.

Draft policies can better facilitate planning’s contribution to promoting a healthier food environment, either through retail or production opportunities, but the policy details are rightly left to the Local Plans to address according to local evidence base and priorities.

In summary the Framework provides an appropriate level of guidance for planning for health and wellbeing for people and places in Greater Manchester.

With further strengthening of draft policies on key issues and a framework to set out monitoring and evaluation, the TCPA looks forward to the publication stage and continuing engagement with the process.

The views expressed here are personal and do not represent TCPA’s formal submission to the GMSF consultation process.

Main image of Manchester City Centre by Flickr user Stacey MacNaught.